School Bond Loss a Surprise for Supporters : Burbank: Leaders say they may try again in the fall. The $100-million measure gets 53% approval. Two-thirds was needed.


Despite repeated failures of similar measures in other cities, Burbank school district officials expressed surprise Wednesday that a $100-million school bond measure did not pass, but suggested they may try again in November.

Officials said they did not realize how important the cost of the measure--which they put at about $33 annually for owners of a median-valued residence in the city--would be to voters.

The bond failed with 53% of the turnout--5,766 votes--in support of the referendum, and 46.7%--or 5,061--voting no.

School districts need a two-thirds majority to pass a bond referendum, a standard that nearly half of California school districts have failed to meet in the past five years even though they earned a majority vote. In the aftermath of Tuesday's election, school officials took stock Wednesday of the lessons the bond campaign taught them.

"We don't see this as a defeat," board President Elena Hubbell said. "We won this election. We just didn't do it with the two-thirds majority."

But opponents of the bond reject that idea.

Elizabeth Michael, a bond opponent, argued that a bond is unnecessary. There is enough money to rebuild the schools using other city or district funds, she said.

"I think people feel they are taxed entirely too much," Michael said.

Volunteer campaign workers had identified enough voters in Burbank who supported the bond campaign, but many had simply stayed home, said Denise Lioy Wilcox, a board member who led the effort in support of the bond referendum.

Polling places had been changed by the county this year, and Wilcox said some voters told her Wednesday that they did not know where to vote.

But a broader problem was that the school board misjudged voters' interest in the details of the financing, Wilcox said.

Critics of the bond disagreed with the estimate made by the district's financial advisers that the bond would cost a little more than $33 a year for a residence worth $101,000, the median assessed value for property in Burbank. The bond opponents complained the number was based on assumptions about the growth of property values, which they said might be wrong.

"We were a little taken aback," Wilcox said when those figures were questioned late in the campaign. "We were told (by other districts) that people would not focus on or care about those details."

The school board may start a new bond campaign, possibly for the November election, but Hubbell said the failure in Tuesday's election may force the district to consider other solutions to the mounting problem of overcrowding.

"We're going to have to take a look at year-round schedules," Hubbell said. Using district facilities for child care might also have to be re-examined, he said.

Wilcox wants to create a coalition--to include those who opposed the bond--to develop a new plan to finance the rebuilding of the schools.

"We're more than willing, now, to have them join us," Wilcox said. "We need to come together as a community."

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